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It’s the LAW! Acts 22:21-30


Jewish and Roman Law

Text: Acts 22:21-30

Paul’s defence has taken place, in four stages. His testimony, speaking of his undoubted, indisputable Jewish background and pedigree, his conversion to Christ on the Damascus Road, his introduction of a credible witness, and his prayer-time in Jerusalem. As he utters his last sentence, the mob is so incensed that they bay for his blood. We’re going to relate the narrative, the drama in the text, but first let’s ask a reasonable question…

1. Why Do Some People Hate Christians so Much? John 15:17-19 Acts 22:22

Paul’s accusers have so far been silent, but as his testimony continues, what he says utterly enrages the Jews and they want him dead. 22:22 Why did they hate Paul so much? And, why has it been that from that time to this, there are people who hate Christians and Christ so much? Think of the good that Christianity has brought into the world, how Christians have made an impact on society. In education, in social reform, in medicine, in democracy, in the arts, and of course in language…. The Authorised Version of the Bible has been called, “the most important book in English religion and culture”, and “the most celebrated book in the English-speaking world.” Compare nations where Christianity has influenced society, with cultures where Islam has been the main influence. No art, no industry, no compassion, no human rights, no medical aid… So, given the good that Christianity has done, – why have people hated it, and hated Christians, from its earliest days until now? Let’s see…

2. The Law of the Jews. v21-21

There is great drama in these verses. Look at how the Jews expressed their rage. This was an eastern crowd, and the reaction was a far from restrained. They tore off their coats, they shouted waved their fists, they lifted sand from of the ground and the tossed it into the air. 22:23  These Jews had already beaten Paul, and now they are literally screaming for his blood. What was so offensive? Just one thing. GRACE! The Jews would have no problem with Paul offering the message of repentance and entry to the covenant promises of God to Gentiles – not at all. After all, every synagogue in the Gentile world had its god-fearers, those Greeks who were seeking after the God of Israel, seeking to learn more about God’s wonderful deliverance of his own people. And some of them would become proselytes, – they would accept the Jewish faith, turn from their wickedness, and seek to follow the Jewish law, and indicate that by submitting to the sign of covenant of the OT, circumcision. They would be heartily welcomed into the local Jewish community. There was no problem there at all. What really riled the Jews was not the message of the LAW, it was the message of GRACE! Romans 5:20. Romans 6:14. Paul was teaching these Gentiles that Jesus had fulfilled the Law FOR THEM! That they were free from the Law and its guilt and condemnation, and that they had total and complete forgiveness and new life in Christ! Worse still, they did not need to subject themselves to the outward marks of the Law, not to the ritual washings of Judaism, not to CIRCUMCISION! Look at what Paul had taught in Romans 3:1, Galatians 5:6, Romans 4:11, 1 Corinthians 7:19, Galatians 6:15, Philippians 3:3, Colossians 3:11

Outward religion is pointless religion! Our circumcision must be in our hearts! Romans 2:28-29 And it is THAT – which made the Jews so angry that they wanted to kill Paul. It still does. People like Christians ok when they confine their activities to the betterment of mankind. The ‘social gospel’ is fine. Churches that are promoting ‘critical race theory’ or promoting ‘gay marriage’ in their buildings – that’s all fine, – but tell them that they need to have a new heart, that they must repent of their sins and trust Christ, be born again, be rescued from their sin, by God’s unearned grace, through faith ALONE – and the world will still go off into an irrational rage.

3. The Law of the Romans. v24-29

Let’s go back to this drama. This troublemaker has been permitted to speak, and he speaks in a language the centurion can’t understand. He sees the Jewish mob standing quietly and listening while the man speaks, and then he sees this massive eruption of anger – sheer unbridled hatred. The soldier would need to find out why, for the Roman authorities didn’t tolerate such behaviour. The Lex Romana had a way to deal with men like this. They would question Paul under torture, until he confessed. 22:24  He would be beaten with the hideous whip that had been used to scourge Jesus – and it literally tore the flesh from off him. Many men where left mentally scarred after such a hiding, many died. So, Paul as taken into the barracks and prepared for the lashing. What would he do now?

Let’s pause here and think for a moment about martyrdom, because with the events in Afghanistan, China, Nigeria, Moslem nations – Christianity is under persecution and Christians are being put to death, martyred, – and have been from the time of Stephen until now, and it will continue. How should a Christian face martyrdom? READ Romans 12:17-18  Are we to stand up in the street and deliberately attract attention, and shout, “I’m a Christian – come and arrest me…”.

Paul was about to suffer and die for Christ. It would be awful, but it would surely prove that he was being honest when he wrote Philippians 1:21. Wouldn’t he welcome this opportunity to suffer for Jesus? But Paul had a wider view. Look at what happened next in 22:25-29  Paul avoided the dreadful whip and the certain death it would bring, by appealing to his Roman citizenship. Martyrdom for Paul would eventually come, – it would come at Rome and he would face it with faith, looking to Christ his Saviour. But now was not the time. There was more to do. Look again at the text from Philippians in its context…. Philippians 1:22-25 

Paul knows the Law. For a Roman to be flogged without trial is against the Lex Romana – and that would be execution for the officer who ordered it. Paul is released, and the captain reports to the commander, and another decision is made. Acts 22:30  The Roman officer will summon the men of the Sanhedrin, and place Paul in front of them, and investigate the cause of these matters. In our next study we’ll see how Paul reacts.

© Bob McEvoy Sept 2021

From → Acts, Bible Study

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